Thursday, 3/24/11

Fireball untimed 


NYT 5:00 


LAT 6:47 (Neville) 


CS untimed 


BEQ 3:48 


Reminder for all Chicago-area and Midwestern puzzlers: The Chicago Crossword Tournament is coming up on April 16! Details here. Space is limited, so register early—registrations will be capped at 50. Hope to see you there!

Ian Livengood’s New York Times crossword

3/24/11 NYT crossword answers 0324

Isn’t it curious that today’s NYT and Fireball constructors have the same five letters inside their names? The IAN-LI bit is repeated in julIAN LIm.

Ian, whom I just met last weekend at the ACPT, provides a fresh SLANT on the “four phrases with the same clue” theme. Not only are the four 15s all things that mean JETS, but the letters J, E, T, and S are circled at the beginning of the four theme answers. So the clue for all four is [See circles], and you have to work the crossings to piece together the 15s and figure out what the circled letters are.

  • 46a. Football TEAM FROM NEW YORK
  • 60a. SHARKS’ RIVAL GANG in West Side Story

I’m the first to admit that I usually don’t like the clues-and-answers-are-swapped themes, but hiding the clue  in the initial letter of each 15 is a cool twist that sells the theme to me.

I rolled my eyes at 5d: [Wicked women] cluing JEZEBELS (negative gendered word #872 in the English language) but the existence of the blog pleases me. And the puzzle does better by women throughout the rest of the grid—muckraker IDA Tarbell, writer Zora NEALE Hurston, and rock bassist TINA Weymouth are all awesome.

Favorite clue:

  • 14a. [Something that might reduce a tip?] of a fingernail is an EMERY board.


Julian Lim’s Fireball crossword, “Alias Smith and Jones”

Fireball 3/24/11 solution

Editor Peter Gordon distributed this knockout of a puzzle at the ACPT last weekend. I solved it on paper, so I’m using Peter’s PDF solution instead of my own grid. The PDF displays the gimmick more clearly than my paper does—Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones played the Men in Black, and MEN appears in four black squares to complete 12 answers. You’ve got WILLKOM{MEN}, {MEN}OPAUSAL, and {MEN} WITHOUT WO{MEN} around the north MEN. In the west, there’s SALES{MEN}, Eva {MEN}DES, and {MEN}TAL HEALTH. Down south, it’s the other end of 21d along with ABLE SEA{MEN} (meh) and theme-revealer {MEN} IN BLACK. In the east, there’s INSTANT RA{MEN}, ICE{MEN}, and {MEN}ORAHS.

It took a while for the gimmick to show itself. Lots of working through the crossings and staring at the grid, befuddled. Eventually it all came together smoothly, and what a payoff. Five stars!

Sparkling fill—there’s THE HOBBIT, NCAA FINAL, ROMANCE, HIT LIST, and a TOUGHIE (like this puzzle).

Love the challenging clues in here, too. A few favorites:

  • 39a. [Female who hoovers] is a CHAR, as in a charwoman. CHAR is an informal British term, and hoovering is vacuuming.
  • 69a. [Forward or back, e.g.] clues an ATHLETE.
  • 1d. A lawn MOWER is clued [It has blades for blades]—metal blades to cut blades of grass.
  • 53d. [They’re used eight days a year] refers to MENORAHS. Eight days of Hanukkah.

Don Gagliardo and C.C. Burnikel’s Los Angeles Times crossword – Neville’s review

3/24/11 LA Times crossword answers

Around these parts, the freshness of a crossword theme really can make or break a puzzle. I think we’ve got a great spin on a classic crossword theme here – you can [Decide once and for all…] or MAKE OR BREAK the last word in each of the other four long answers. Not one connection, but two – I love it.

  • 17a. [Romantic evening components, maybe] are DINNER DATES.
  • 22a. [California Gold Rush staple] is SOURDOUGH BREAD. How is this related to the Gold Rush? The Internet tells me that it was the main type of bread made in Northern California during the rush. The mascot of the San Francisco 49ers is Sourdough Sam.
  • 36a. [Alien statutes] are IMMIGRATION LAWS. I misread “statutes” as “statuses” and expected something more like ILLEGAL or WITH GREEN CARDS or perhaps even NEWLY NATURALIZED. Note to self: read the clues.
  • 47a. [Wurlitzer whirlers] are JUKEBOX RECORDS. Scrabble letters! When I think of Wurlitzer, I think of organs, like the Mighty Wurlitzer in Radio City Music Hall. (There are other Mighty Wurlitzers – I just happen to live in New York.)

A beautiful set of theme entries – real, fun phrases. Thanks, Don & C.C.!

Favorite pair of clues:

  • 40a. [It can make a star shine] – LEAD ROLE. This is great – so not what I was thinking.
  • 46a. [Cause of star wars?] – EGO. There are only so many ways to clue EGO, but this was new to me, at least. Why does this get the question mark when the other clue doesn’t, though?

I’d already forgotten that OBAMA won the Nobel Prize in 2009 – whoops. And I feel like I just saw the ‘Obama’s father was born in KENYA‘ not too long ago – did that just happen, or is it deja vu?

Tennis players, do you ever call a [Top server] an ACER? I call shenanigans on this word.

Two people I’ve never heard of:

  • 66a. [Pulitzer writer Kidder] – TRACY. I read he’s a real cut-up, though. (Sorry – pun.)
  • 50d. [Volleyball great Gabrielle] – REECE.

Hey, I’ve heard of everyone else. Not too shabby.

Updated Thursday morning:

Bob Klahn’s CrosSynergy/Washington Post puzzle, “Yank EEs” — Janie’s review

Bob delivers a home run with this deletion-style gimmick. He yanks the letter pair EE from four well-known phrases and delivers results that are dEE-lightful. Those base phrases are a particularly dEE-licious, lively, colorful set in their own right and contribute no end to the overall enjoyment of the before-and-after experience. I do believe there’s a lesson in here somewhere… Check ’em out:

  • 17A. touchy feely → TOUCHY FLY [Overly sensitive buzzer?]. See what I mean? And nice misdirection in the clue with the game-show/timer-associated word “buzzer” standing in for “insect.”
  • 27A. keep in stitches → KP IN STITCHES [Roaring potato peelers]. Folks on “KP” being the military’s “kitchen patrol,” hence, potato-peeler wielders, at times. They always enjoy a good joke.
  • 44A. dastardly deeds → DASTARDLY DDS [Despicably cowardly dentist?]. Because dastardly has other (negative) nuances, the concept of the dastardly dds brings to mind Dr. Phoebus Farb (and patient Wilbur Force—Jack Nicholson in his screen debut) from Roger Corman’s The Little Shop of Horrors. (See the doctor “yank”; hear Jack cry, “EE!”)
  • 60A. “Swanee River” → SWAN RIVER [Course for wild trumpeters?]. Think trumpeter swan… (But where [Trumpeter’s accessory] is concerned, think musician and MUTE). This one feels A MITE [Very slightly] tamer than its cohorts but does bring to mind “The $99,000 Answer,” an exquisite episode of “The Honeymooners.” Nuthin’ tame about that!

You can probably say this before I do, but as always, the non-theme cluing is vibrant with: alliteratives, same-word sequentials, misdirection and general wordplay. There’re LOTSA nice examples and I suspect you’re all bright enuf to suss ’em out. Still, “ALLOW ME” to point out some highlights:

  • It’s what’s inside that counts, right? Therefore [Basketball center?] = AIR, and not a PLAYER of any sort. For that, look to the next clue, [Basketball’s “sixth man,” e.g.], the SUB.
  • The run of Bs continues with [Bearded buggy brethren] for AMISH and then [BOUNCE like a buoy] for BOB.
  • [“South Park” co-creator Parker] TREY is followed by [South Seas explorer] COOK, which ties in with SAMOA [Neighbor of Fiji and Tonga].
  • [Kind of down] ≠ SORTA SAD, but EIDER
  • Non-hep-[Cat that loves to swim] OCELOT. And the jaguar, too, apparently.
  • You might possibly have found the showy HIBISCUS [Flower used in herbal teas] in the [First family’s residence?] EDEN; the [Cardinal’s residence] that follows is the non-Vatican-related NEST. (But no cardinals in Eden…) Alas for the first family that the [Target of Cain’s mutiny?] was his brother ABEL.
  • All this Eden talk reminds me that there’s a wonderful/terrible botanical pun in the mix with one really long clue—[Branch of mathematics that sounds like what a grown-up acorn would say] GEOMETRY. “Gee, omma tree!” <Groan!> By the locution, sounds like a sapling.

Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog crossword, “3-D Places”

BEQ 317 answers

The theme takes familiar phrases that contain two-dimensional “shapes” and turns them into 3D equivalents:

  • 20a. BERMUDA PYRAMID. The typical pyramid has a square base, but there’s also a triangular pyramid, the tetrahedron.
  • 50a. WASHINGTON CUBE riffs on Washington Square. Location of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? Huh? Apparently this is in Philadelphia, honoring Revolutionary War soldiers.

Not a fan of the fill in this puzzle. ETHERIC was unfamiliar. AREAR crossing IRED, NINE WEST sort of duplicating WESTIE, DEBAR, ENURES? The blah fill was asserting itself and distracting me from the more typically BEQesque fill, like X-RAY SPECS, CHEECH, TAMPA BAY, and FT. WAYNE, IN.

Pretty easy for a BEQ puzzle, though Brendan rated it “medium.” I find that Brendan’s easiest puzzles seldom sneak below a floor of Wednesday NYT difficulty. The Monday Newsday level? I don’t think Brendan can bring himself to make a puzzle with 100% easy clues and no pop culture names that may be beyond some solvers’ ken. (This is not a challenge, Brendan! I don’t want you to make truly easy puzzles.)

Brendan Quigley’s puzzle, take two—Matt Gaffney’s review

Amy says: Dang, I forgot Matt was now blogging the Thursday BEQ! Here’s his take on the crossword:

OK theme in today’s BEQ, lively fill. Let’s gloss over the first so we can discuss the second in detail: Brendan takes three phrases involving two-dimensional shapes and makes them 3D:


This theme has been done quite a few times before. That’s not a sin, but this knowledge must have made Brendan especially motivated to go crazy on the fill. Quigley rarely lets 7-, 8- and 9-letter nontheme opportunities slip meekly by; he aims for solid contact each time. And he bats .875 with them here: X-RAY SPECS. FT. WAYNE IN, MR. SLATE (not MRS. LATE, the boss who’s never on time), NINE WEST, TAMPA BAY, MEDICARE and BEND OVER range from good to great. Only ETHERIC isn’t above-average from this bunch, but it’s still fine. Nice work.

There’s fun fill in the 6-and-fewer category as well: RABBIS, JIHAD, LAB FEE, CHEECH, WESTIE. There are four or five fill entries I don’t like, and you didn’t like them either so I won’t bother mentioning them. Let’s say you have a corner to fill and two options for filling it: one gives you six smooth, inarguably valid, but somewhat pedestrian words; the other gives you five flashy entries and one lousy word. Not ANOA lousy, but NOLO lousy. I’d sometimes choose the second and not feel bad about it. Quigley seems to agree!

Thanks for the puzzle Brendan, and have a passable Thursday everyone!

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14 Responses to Thursday, 3/24/11

  1. Plot says:

    NYT and LAT seemed to be much easier than the average Thursday puzzle, but I thought the Fireball was much harder, so things balanced out. It took me a long time to realize that the rebus was going to be multidirectional.

    I’m probably alone in this, but I have to ask: Did anyone else try to fill in SAMSON for “Flier of the X-1”?

  2. john farmer says:

    I enjoyed both *IANLI* puzzles today. The 4×15’s seemed to give the NYT a classic feel. Didn’t think it was easy — I was staring at white longer than I normally do. The holdups in the FB were (a) having MEADE for SYKES (each a George who replaced the other George in command of Union forces at one point), a false gimme if ever there was one, and (b) starting early with Hemingway’s IN OUR TIME for the short story collection (which was two years earlier). Neither stayed in for long. The puzzle didn’t “feel” hard to me — I kept moving along — but the solve was in the usual range for FBs. A TOUGHIE, judging by the clock. Clever puzzle.

  3. Amy Reynaldo says:

    @Plot: I am probably alone in trying to fill in SAMSON for the [Pink shade] at 27d.

  4. HH says:

    “[It can make a star shine] – LEAD ROLE. … [Cause of star wars?] – EGO. … Why does this get the question mark when the other clue doesn’t, though?”

    Because you don’t put a question mark after a declarative sentence.

  5. Jamie says:

    Totally disagree about the Fireball. I admit, I missed the theme completely, and if you didn’t catch on, you were like me – lost. WTF, ablesea? That can’t be a word.

    I’d like that last 58 excruciating minutes of my life back, now that the theme has been explained.

    Bitter? Moi? Oui! This is the first xw I have ever rated 1 star, and that’s only because I couldn’t give it zero. Burying a common word like men in a xw is not my idea of a 5-star puzzle. Of course, I am also stupid and this was too clever by far.

  6. C.C. says:

    I’m happy to know you liked our puzzle, Neville. Your favorite pair of clues (LEAD ROLE & EGO) are both from Rich. Our clue for ACER is “Big name in PC”.

  7. AV says:

    @Jamie: Yes, burying a common word like MEN in a xwd is just plain stupid. But maybe burying MEN in BLACK (i.e., black squares) is clever?

  8. Karen says:

    In the Fireball, I was thinking Instant Ra was a brand name for a while. Then I picked up on the MENopausal and things started clicking. Great to have each hidden men going off in three directions.

    On the NYT, the first long across I got was Team from New York, and I reflexively threw in METS. That made the other entries confusing for a while, until I found the Sharks rival gang.

  9. Neville says:

    C.C., thanks for stopping by! I did really enjoy your puzzle today. Between you and me (and the rest of the Internet), I prefer your original ‘PC’ clue for ACER – so it can really go either way between constructor and editor!

  10. Gareth says:

    Both the NYT and LAT made me smile quite a bit today. The NYT had a nice twist on a familiar theme style, one that we all know can be boring and irksome, but played out very nicely IMO today!

    LAT puzzle was just great theme-wise! Vibrant revealer making for a simple, but elegant theme! Not wholly sold on JUKEBOXRECORDS though… I’ve asked this before, but I’ll ask it again: why is edema always clued via botany and not medicine? It’s a perfectly common symptom of any number of conditions from inflammation to hypoproteinaemia… And of course there are a couple of perfectly decent other ways to clue ACER… Editor has final say in the matter of crossword clues, naturally. Noone seems to have mentioned it, but I’m guessing you all know that Zhouqin “CC” Burnikel is the head-blogger @! Seems all crossword bloggers eventually succumb to the itch to publish their own crosswords!

  11. Neville says:

    Thank you for pointing that out, Gareth. I had a hunch that it might be, but I unfortunately didn’t have time to check that before the post. Congratulations on a fine debut, C.C.!

  12. Matt Gaffney says:


    Perhaps, for the sake of completeness, you could let us know which recent puzzle you have given five stars? Or even four.

    Really, I’d like to know.

  13. Jamie says:

    Matt: I don’t think you want to know, but since you asked: I give most puzzles 4 stars or 3, or just skip rating them if they fall below that. I know they have to go through a really tough editing process to get published in the better spots including yours. 3= normal standards. 4=good for the day/venue. 5= very rare/once-a-year kinda stuff. Byron’s and Mrs B’s Ido wedding puzzle, which was just fabulously inventive. That puzzle where Clinton and Dole both won would have been a 5 in the day. I think I gave a recent ACME Monday NYT puzzle a 5 star because it was the first Monday puzzle I had seen in about a year that was almost completely fresh. That’s it for 5s for me.

    If Orange thinks the puzzle is 5-star, it likely is. She has a better eye than I do. I just had my dunce cap on when solving it. And I have never spent so long trying to solve a puzzle in my entire life.

    Well, since the invention of Google, at any rate. *ahem*

    In this case, I think I would blame the solver for the rotten eggs. My apologies. I just didn’t get it. Perhaps that is the hallmark of a great puzzle? That aha moment.
    It just didn’t work for me. I think I should stop typing right now.

  14. Jamie says:

    @MattGaffney, I just read your review of the BEQ, and “anoa lousy” (not applied to the BEQ) made me laugh. There really needs to be a rating for a puzzle that has too much bad fill. I think this would be it. It could be just one word. Try it: anoalosy. Defined as “another lousy crossword.”

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